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The Family and Medical Leave Act's text does not restrict care to a particular place or geographic location. For instance, it does not say that an employee is entitled to time off to care at home for a family member. The only limitation it places on care is that the family member must have a serious health condition. Courts are reluctant, without good reason, to read in another limitation that Congress has not provided.
Beverly Ballard, a former Chicago Park District employee, requested unpaid leave from the Chicago Park District to accompany her terminally ill mother to Las Vegas. Ballard and her mother traveled to Las Vegas as planned, where they spent time together and participated in typical tourist activities. Beverly continued to serve as her mother's caretaker during the trip. Several months later, the Chicago Park District terminated Ballard for unauthorized absences accumulated during her trip. Ballard filed suit under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Park District moved for summary judgment, arguing in part that Ballard did not "care for" her mother in Las Vegas because the trip was not related to a continuing course of medical treatment. The district court denied the motion, holding that the place where the care took place had no bearing on whether the employee would receive FMLA protections. The Park District moved for an interlocutory appeal.
Did the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) apply if the employee requested leave to provide physical and psychological care to a terminally ill parent, notwithstanding the fact that such parent was traveling away from home?
The Court affirmed the judgment of the lower court, holding that at the very least, the employee requested leave in order to provide physical care, which was enough to satisfy 29 U.S.C.S. § 2612(a)(1)(C), because her mother's basic medical, hygienic, and nutritional needs did not change while she was in Las Vegas, and the employee continued to assist her with those needs during the trip. The Court averred that the Family and Medical Leave Act's text did not restrict care to a particular place or geographic location. So long as the employee attended to a family member's basic medical, hygienic, or nutritional needs, that employee was caring for the family member, even if that care was not part of ongoing treatment of the condition. Accordingly, the Court held that Ballard was seeking leave to care for a family member within the meaning of the FMLA.